Thursday, September 17, 2009

Why aren't TVR allowed in the States?

I been on and off in the market looking for a new car.  Besides the obvious factors that are keeping me from buying one (depreciating asset, maintenance, liability, opportunity cost) there is also just nothing in the US market that interests me in at the price point I'm willing to spend.

Having my curiosity get the best of me, I decided to look at the international car market via eBay Germany and UK.  To my surprise, there are many vehicles for sale at very reasonable prices that look amazing.  One example would be the TVR Tuscan.  Some may remember this car had a starring role with John Travolta in the movie Swordfish.  Not sure if the trunk would fit machine guns and rocket launchers as advertised in the film but take it for what it's worth.  The car may be an "acquired" taste but I love how unique and beautiful the vehicle looks.  I especially love the Chameleon paintwork.  Essentially, the unique paint changes the color of the vehicle from green to purple depending on the angle viewed and the light reflecting off the paint.

A little history about TVR.  TVR was an old British super car coach builder that was both made famous by the movie Swordfish as well as the acquisition of the firm by a Russian Tycoon for his 20 year old son.  Sadly, the kid ran the company to the ground.

Amazingly, these vehicles are still around, many in great condition and with very low miles.  Average miles on these cars range from 19,000 to 40,000, and are priced from $24,000 - $28,000 USD.  For a great example see here.

This got me thinking: what if I could purchase one of these vehicles OUS and have it imported to the States for personal use?  Should be a pretty simple process, right?  Nope.

Loopholes allowing cars of 'historical or technical value' an allowance of 2,500 miles a year to commute between motoring museums have also been exploited but only in a limited number of cases.  Unfortunately, most TVR do not qualify for any of the following.  Essentially, if any of the factors below apply to the vehicle you wish to import, you should not expect the NHTSA to grant permission for importation:
  1. Whether a vehicle of the same make, model, and model year was manufactured and certified for sale in the United States.
  2. Whether a vehicle of the same make, model, and model year has been determined eligible for importation pursuant to 49 CFR Part 593.
  3. Whether the vehicle is currently in production.
  4. Whether more than 500 of the vehicles were produced.
  5. Whether the vehicle is a kit car, replica, or special construction vehicle.
Click here for detailed rules on import regulations. 

Curiously anyone with a non-US passport living in the US temporarily may import a car for up to a year on a 'form HS7'.  This means for me to realize the dream of owning the TVR, I need to be a non-US passport living in the US temporarily, or move out of the country.  Sucks, doesn't it?

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